1. Morituri Te Salutant 2. Prelude Of Souls 3. Innocent 4. Depression 5. No Regrets 6. Confusion 7. Black 8. Beauty 9. No Fear 10. Soul Survivor 11. Full Moon 12. Kill Your Gods 13. Turn My World Around 14. Be With Me Or Be Gone 15. Speak Of The Dead
Well anyone who knows me will understand that I am quite possibly the biggest Rage fan in the free world. I've stood by Peavy and the boys for years, supporting just about every single album concept and line-up that the Germans have put into place. The group at one point were probably the best of the German power metal bands, even going as far as being a serious contender early on with the likes of Destruction and Kreator on the thrash scene as well. Since the mid to late '90s Peavy has changed things considerably, always looking for new creative visions and suggestions that have taken him into the realms of symphonic metal. The band played with those elements on three records thus far; "Lingua Mortis", "XIII", and "Ghosts". Now after two fairly "power metal" oriented albums in "Unity" and "Soundchaser", Rage have once again entered the symphony section for their newest record, "Speak Of The Dead".
This new album is the first Nuclear Blast release for the group. In the past they have courted with the likes of G.U.N, Noise, and SPV. This is also the fourth consecutive album to feature the three piece of Victor Smolski (guitar), Peavy (bass), and Mike Terrana (drums). This is the third time that the band has had four albums back to back with the same line-up. If history is any indication this will be the last record to feature the same group of musicians. But time will tell with that theory, in the meantime we have the subject at hand, "Speak Of The Dead". Producing this record is once again Charlie Bauerfield, who has produced numerous albums for the band in the past. The symphony parts on the record are played with the Minsk (White Russia) Symphonic Orchestra, who contribute their melodies and brooding backgrounds to HALF of this record. Very interesting considering in the past the orchestra records consumed all of the material. This time around Peavy and company decided to please both sets of fans by using the symphony on the first eight tracks and having the last seven songs as straight forward three piece power/thrash. I enjoyed the "XIII" album from the group but really disliked the elements found on "Ghosts" and "Lingua Mortis". For me personally I have always enjoyed the middle era of Rage, really preferring current Grave Digger guitarist Manni Schmidt over Victor Smolski any day of the week. I found "Unity" to be a bit complicated and "choppy" and the follow-up, "Soundchaser", to be a bit watery and thin. What is to be found with this new effort?
I find this new release really disappointing, almost a curtain call for the band and their legacy. At times the band shows off some brilliant numbers, the obvious highlight being "Full Moon", with its punchy rhythm and melodic chorus easily hooking me in like the band's early work on "The Missing Link". But while Manni Schmidt's guitar tone was clean and crisp, Victor Smolski's guitar riffs are completely the opposite. His work on the Rage albums thus far is very entertaining, but here I find it very boring and uninspired. It is as if his riffs have ran their course and the material just doesn't sound refreshing any longer. You can hear a song like "No Regrets" and immediately think Rage, Rage, Rage, but this time around the guitar tone is too far down, sounding a bit quirky and mechanical in delivery. But it isn't completely Smolski's fault as the songwriting and chorus parts for Peavy are very processed and weak. Most of the "metal" cuts here are built on the same platform as the "Unity" material, with songs like "Be With Me Or Be Gone", "Kill Your Gods", and the title cut all possessing those downtuned, groovy riffs that have the wacky effects all over the place. Of the symphonic cuts, five are instrumentals. Huh? The remaining symphony pieces are a ballad and two groove oriented numbers that are ruined by the background orchestra bits.
In all honesty, Rage hasn't put out a great record since 1997 with "End Of All Days". Since then it just seems like the band is having identity problems and I'm not sure if Victor Smolski is helping matters. I would love to see Rage take a few years off, join up with Manni Schmidt (who thus far isn't working out very well with Grave Digger musically), and return with an album closer to "Trapped" or "The Missing Link". If Smolski stays, and history says he won't, then at least add another thick guitar player to the mix to capture that heavy thrash sound of "Black In Mind".
Bottom Line - At this point I can honestly say that Germany's Holy Trinity (Grave Digger, Rage, Running Wild) are on their last legs.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.
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